'It was all a mistake.'
That was the gist of what Senator Pamela Wallin told CBC's Peter Mansbridge in her first full-length interview since the Senate expense scandal erupted a month ago.
Wallin — who is under fire for claiming more than $375,000 in travel claims in just two years — is now being investigated by an outside auditor. Deloitte's report is expected to be released some time this summer.
On Thursday, Wallin appeared with Mansbridge on The National to talk about her recent ordeal.
Here's some of what she had to say:
About the expense claims that got her in trouble:
There’s a lot of paperwork particularly in government, every time you move, every time you go anywhere. Sort of more paperwork than is humanly possible to keep on top of. So I made mistakes.
[Travel expenses] that should have been charged to a third party weren’t. It was just kind of going through the Senate system as it always had for many years.
I didn't deliberately set out to abuse this system in any way. In fact I thought I was being pretty rigorous but I actually wasn't being rigorous enough. And that's on me and I am going to try and make that right if I can.
About leaving the Conservative caucus:
It was clear to me that they wanted me out. That was, a phone call comes and you’re given an hour to resign or you’ll be fired, for lack of a better word.
Why she's speaking now:
We were first told we’d have the result in January, then in February, and then in April and then, you know, now maybe the middle of the summer. And nobody more than me is hoping that’s the case.
But I think it’s getting very difficult for people, it’s difficult for me. And I’d like to at least express some of my feelings about this. I’m very sorry, obviously, that I’ve caused all of this grief for my family, and my friends and my fellow parliamentarians. And I think taxpayers have a right to know.
Wallin deserves some credit for doing a full-length interview. It's more than can be said of Senators Mike Duffy or Mac Harb — who are also under scrutiny for improperly claiming expenses.
But she also made a lot of excuses: blaming a mountain of paper work, no direct flights from Ottawa to Saskatchewan and her "speaking engagements" across the country.
Will Canadians buy her story?
The National Post's Andrew Coyne isn't so sure.
"Everybody deserves the benefit of the doubt," Coyne said on CBC.
"But she has a..high mountain to climb to persuade people that all of these expenses that she falsely and improperly claimed was all just a big mistake.
"That is possible but..in the court of public opinion it's going to be a tough sell."
On Twitter, most journalists commended Wallin for at least answering questions:
At the very least, Wallin is coming off as frank, unscripted. About time one of them faced this stupidity head on. #cdnpoli
— Chris Hofley (@chrishofley) June 14, 2013
Others on Twitter, however, weren't as kind.
Short version of Pamala Wallin interview, "Paperwork's hard". #cdnpoli
— Erynn Watson (@erynnwatson) June 14, 2013
Well, finally! Senator Wallin says sorry for mistakes on travel claims http://t.co/esrMtoaPYt Now step down since want to do right thing
— Hugh Kruzel (@HughKruzel) June 14, 2013
Once Wallin's audit report is complete, she'll have to do more than just convince the public that her improperly claimed expenses was a mistake.
It's expected that her audit will be immediately forwarded to the RCMP.
Are you a politics junkie?
Follow @politicalpoints on Twitter!